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State v. McWilliams

Supreme Court of Arkansas

November 2, 2017

STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLANT
v.
STONEY LEE MCWILLIAMS APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE POINSETT COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [56CR-16-186] HONORABLE DANIEL RITCHEY, JUDGE

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Brooke Jackson Gasaway, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellant.

          Chet Dunlap, for appellee.

          ROBIN F. WYNNE, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE.

         The State of Arkansas has filed this interlocutory appeal from the Poinsett County Circuit Court's order granting appellee Stoney McWilliams's motion to suppress. On appeal, the State argues that (1) the circuit court erred as a matter of law by interpreting Rule 2.2 of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure to invalidate the encounter between McWilliams and the arresting officer and (2) the circuit court erred in concluding that the officer's actions constituted a seizure. Because this is not a proper State appeal under Ark. R. App. P.-Crim. 3 (2016), we dismiss the appeal.

         The pertinent facts are as follows. On the afternoon of December 19, 2015, Stoney McWilliams and his girlfriend were walking along the shoulder next to Highway 63B in Marked Tree. They were carrying bags filled with groceries. Police officer Kevin Holt testified that when he drove past McWilliams, "[McWilliams] kind of shielded his face from me and it kind of arose my suspicion. I thought maybe, possibly, he had a warrant or something and didn't want me to see his face." Officer Holt turned his patrol car around, pulled up behind McWilliams with his rear lights flashing, and got out of the vehicle. He instructed McWilliams to stop, and McWilliams complied. Officer Holt asked McWilliams his name, McWilliams answered, and Officer Holt then asked for identification. At that point, McWilliams ran.[1]

         After considering Officer Holt's testimony at a hearing on McWilliams's motion to suppress, the circuit court granted the motion as follows:

1. After the State rested, the Defendant's [attorney] orally moved for a Motion for Directed Verdict. The court finds that the State has not met its burden with respect to the Defendant's Motion to Suppress.
2. The Court finds that Ark. Rule of Cr. Proc. 2.2 is not applicable because the Market Tree Police officer was not investigating a criminal offense or criminal activity known to him to exist.
3. The Court finds that the Marked Tree Police officer did not have reasonable suspicion to stop the Defendant.
4. The Court finds that under Ark. Rule of Cr. Proc. [3.1][2] that justification for investigatory stops must be based on specific, particular and articulable reasons and must be something more than conjectural suspicion. The Marked Tree Police officer believed that when the Defendant looked away, he was trying to hide his identity because he might have a warrant. The Court finds that the officer's belief is conjectural in nature.
5. All of the issues in Ark. Code Ann. § 16-81-203, with the exception of the Defendant possibly averting his face, did not come into play here. The one issue about the demeanor of the suspect would just merely be by the gesture of him possibly looking away.
6. Considering the totality of the circumstances, the Court finds that there was no reasonable suspicion.
7. The Court finds that the act of turning across traffic to come up behind individuals in a police unit, with lights activated from the rear, getting out of his car and ordering ...

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